Brazil has one of the most active and dynamic popular music scenes on the planet, which is reason enough for Putumayo to revisit the country for a fourth time. This update presents unplugged performances by megastars like Caetano Veloso as well as other artists with a lower global profile. It's a warm, liquid, romantic tour of samba, bossa nova, and beyond that rewards repeated spins.
Acoustic Brazil does its subject justice, to the extent twelve tracks can adequately represent the music of a couple hundred million people. The focus is on song, which has a few implications: the pieces are short, only one longer than four minutes; they emphasize melody and lyrical content in intertwined combination; and they showcase vocal talent as a centerpiece for instrumental presentation. Provided you're on board with that scenario, there's a lot here to like.
A sense of mellow contemplation, bittersweet love, and restrained celebration characterize most of this material, but it's not drippy, weak, or bland in any sense. Therein lies the magic. Listen to samba veteran Paulinho da Viola sing the delicately simmering "A Voz do Povo"the lush instrumental accompaniment buoys up a lilting melody that masks a somber message of weakness and rebirth:
I am the flower that the wind tossed to the ground
But a bud still remains
So another flower can grow
Minutes later, Ana de Hollanda's feathery voice wafts in and around clarinet counterpoint, bathing her "Samba Triste" ("Sad Samba") in ironic joy. Her brother, Chico Buarque, appears down the road in a swirl of romance and quiet passion. If all this heavy stuff weighs you down, check out Monica Salmaso's minimal, roots-oriented "Moro Na Roça" and Rita Ribeiro's affirmative "Tem Quem Queira." There's a little of everything here. At a brief forty minutes, the running time is the only real drawback.